Socket Mobile rolls out enterprise PDA
Wireless technology vendor Socket Mobile announced the general availability of the SoMo 650, an expandable handheld computer targeted toward the enterprise market that represents the company’s entrance into the mobile device field.
For more than a decade, Socket Mobile has been a supplier of wireless peripherals like wireless LAN cards and barcode-scanning solutions that are designed to expand the functionality of mobile devices, said Peter Phillips, Socket Mobile’s vice president of marketing. With the SoMo 650, Socket Mobile is beginning an effort to become a “one-stop shop” for mobile-device solutions.
“It’s really a shift for us as a company from being a peripherals provider to now being a systems company — we’re now providing a bigger piece or component of the solution,” Phillips said.
Integrated SoMo 650 features include a 624 MHz processor in a PDA-like form factor, the Windows Mobile 5.0 Professional operating system, battery life that will last for an 8-hour shift without recharging, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. In addition, the computing functionality can be expanded via peripherals that leverage the CompactFlash and Secure Digital card slots on the SoMo 650 to enable cellular connectivity or the reading of barcodes or RFID tags, Phillips said.
One customer already using the SoMo 650 is St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, where nurses use the device to scan patient ID wrist badges and medication bar codes, as well as read the RFID tags in their own badges to document work flow and attempt to minimize errors.
“What they’re doing is that they’re validating against the system that they’ve got the right medication, the right patient, the right dosage, the right time of day for it to be dispensed and that it’s being dispensed in the right manner — intravenous, pill or liquid,” Phillips said. “So if a doctor was reading a lab report 15 minutes earlier and determined that the levels were such that they no longer needed that med, the doctor could go into the system and say, ‘That med’s no longer required.’
“Within seconds, that would be updated in the system. When the nurse walks into a patient’s room five minutes later to dispense the med, the system would say, ‘That’s no longer required.’”
The hospital is an example of the kind of enterprise Socket Mobile is targeting, Phillips said. While large corporations with a mobile work force that have similar needs, such as FedEx and UPS, can justify the development of customized mobile devices, other businesses are forced to rely on consumer PDA devices that are not designed for enterprise usage.
In particular, many consumer PDA devices require time to reconnect to the network each time a user moves from one access point to another, Phillips said. Socket Mobile has developed a roaming client that allows users to remain connected while moving seamlessly from one access point to another.
“Today’s handheld devices do not meet all the cost, functionality and form-factor requirements of small and mid-sized mobile deployments,” Socket Mobile President and CEO Kevin Mills said in a statement. “Our strategy is to address this need by being the one-stop supplier of mobile computing hardware systems for the business mobility market.”
San Francisco-based wireless software provider Mobitor received an early version of the SoMo. Audie Hofmann, vice president of sales and business development at Mobitor, said the device enhances his business because it offers his company another device on which to deploy its software. He also said it gives the company an opportunity to provide a device at a reasonable price.
“We are seeing a fast-moving trend towards devices that are less expensive because so many companies have been burned by investing in expensive hardware just to find out that the operating system or memory doesn’t meet their requirements,” Hofmann said. “This device fits a niche in terms of the cost structure that a lot of companies are more comfortable with.”
Although the device is not built for ruggedized environments such as field-force automation, Hofmann notes it does have a larger screen and faster processor, making it ideal for a fast-paced sales environment. In addition, because it isn’t a connected device from a cellular network perspective, fewer compromises were made, including battery life.
“It’s not a device that is managing e-mail, voice, as well as an application, so you don’t have to worry about managing the number of processes that run concurrently — that can be challenging from the development perspective,” Hofmann said. — Mary Rose Roberts contributed. www.socketmobile.com